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Yankees vs. Rays series preview: Create some space

Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

The Yankees ran into a bit of a rough patch last week, dropping six of their last 10 games. Despite all that, the team still sits tied with the Baltimore Orioles for the AL East division lead! The Tampa Bay Rays visit the Bronx for a three-game weekend set on an even bigger slide, having lost eight of their last ten games and still managing to sit only one game back of the division leaders. If the Yankees can take care of business this weekend they can get separate themselves a bit from the pack heading into the All-Star break in a week.

Masahiro Tanaka and Michael Pineda start the first two games of the series, which is, in theory, what you'd want. Tanaka has struggled his last two times out, dragging his critics back out of the closet to declare him not an ace and to declare his elbow in desperate need of Tommy John surgery. The Rays' offense is the weakest in the division, so it's as good of a time as any for the Yankees' ace to get back on track. He'll have to do it against the Rays' best pitcher, however. Chris Archer has owned the Yankees to the tune of a 2.02 ERA in seven starts against New York. Likewise, the Yankees have won all of Tanaka's outings against the Rays. Something is going to have to give tonight.

Pineda's start on Independence Day will pair him up with Nathan Karns. Karns was good his last time out against the Indians and has a not-terrible 3.07 ERA in 14.2 innings against the Yankees. The series finale will feature Ivan Nova starting in place of CC Sabathia and Erasmo Ramirez with Sabathia was originally scheduled to start on Sunday before the Yankees decided to push him back until Wednesday, meaning he'll only get one more start before the break. Ramirez has been quite bad on the road with a 6.18 ERA in 27.2 innings.

Here's tonight's lineup:

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